SINGAPORE (AFP) - Australian coach Graham Arnold heaped praise on Liverpool star Harry Kewell after he helped inspire his side to a 3-0 win over Singapore, but he is far from happy with his back four.
Kewell has been working his way back to fitness after a wretched year blighted by injury and his return to form has been timed perfectly as the Socceroos prepare to make their Asian Cup debut in a week's time.
The winger replaced Mark Bresciano with 30 minutes to go on Saturday for his first international appearance since Australia’s 2-2 draw with Croatia at last year’s World Cup.
He scored once and set up Mark Viduka’s second as the Socceroos recovered from a lacklustre first-half display to overrun the home team.
"I’m delighted for Harry. I gave him the captain’s armband for the last couple of minutes as a reward for what he’s been through," said Arnold.
"He was fantastic when he came on because he gives you an added dimension. Harry came in more central from outside on the wing to be closer to Viduka and I think it’s a role that suits him because he’s a natural goalscorer.
"This is a massive tournament that we’re going into with the results that we want.
"But Harry’s been out for a really long time, he had five operations after the World Cup and the tournament is also about getting Harry Kewell back to his best as well."
While Kewell shone, Australia's defence looked wooden and Arnold admits he was not happy with the way the back four performed.
"Singapore tested us and were very unlucky. We have a lot of work to do. Our attacking play was fantastic... but we've got some work to do in defence," he said.
"I wasn't happy with that side of it. We weren't sharp."
With midfielder Luke Wilkshire playing out of position at left-back and Lucas Neill and Patrick Kisnorbo struggling to combine in central defence, the Socceroos did not make the game safe until the final 15 minutes.
Australia have been acclimatising in Singapore to the sapping Asian heat before heading to Bangkok on Wednesday to prepare for their Asian Cup opener against Oman on July 8.
Their lack of fitness and difficulty adapting to the steamy conditions was exposed by a plucky Singapore in the first half before Kewell led a second-half rally to ensure a morale-boosting victory.
"The match shows you how difficult Asia is for Australia," said Arnold.
"People back at home think moving in to Asia is easy but can you imagine what would have happened if we had just turned up without training here for 10 days before the game?"
Australia are grouped with Thailand, Iraq and Oman at the Asian Cup.
|Coach: R. Avramović|
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